Happy New Year, dear readers. :)
I hope your 2018 is magical and exceeds your expectations.
I’m looking ahead to a busy year. We’ll be moving to a new house soon, so I’ll have all the fun that goes with packing and unpacking boxes again. This will be our permanent home, so I’m looking forward to feeling settled, and cooking in a brand-new kitchen. At least I can open all the boxes and rediscover items I haven’t seen in over a year. Either it will be like Christmas, or I’ll be wondering why I decided to pack said item and drag it across the country when I could have conveniently ‘lost’ it in the skip. The most exciting part for me will be setting up my office, surrounding myself with books, and eliminating a few of the distractions I’ve had in the past year.
Not too long ago, I was asked which books influenced me over the years and drew me into writing. I thought it would be an easy question. Turns out I had to think long and hard about it. By influential, did they mean the books that stayed with me long after I read the words, ‘The End’? The ones that inspired me to write my own? The ones I wish I’d written? Or the ones I escaped to time and again when the real world became too much? So many possibilities and so many books from which to choose. In the end, I picked my top ten, in no particular order.
1. C.S. Lewis’s ‘The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe’ - my favourite of the Narnia Chronicles and the first book I fell in love with. I was terribly disappointed to discover none of the wardrobes, or cupboards or doors in my house (then or now) led to this magical land. I was eleven years old and craving adventure. I wanted to be Lucy, the youngest sibling, and meet Aslan. I may not have found Narnia, but I certainly lost myself in this book.
2. Charlaine Harris’s ‘Sookie Stackhouse’ series – I love how well Ms Harris kept the first-person point of view and how her heroine didn’t always come through adversity without a scratch. I learned what it meant to be a flawed character here, and how sometimes those flaws could become strengths. Not to mention the diversity of paranormal characters I found here – Vampires, Werewolves, and Fairies – Oh my!
3. James Herbert’s ‘Domain’ – set in London after a nuclear bomb decimates the city, this was one of three dark and dastardly tales of sustaining life against the odds. Not for a moment did I feel like I wasn’t amongst the carnage and battling for survival along with the main characters. I was terrified by this story and what the characters did to survive. As for the ones who didn’t – I still get chills. Then there are the rats...so many rats.
Stephen King and Dean Koontz are on a par for me. They both terrify me, keep me awake at night wondering at the possibilities behind their stories, fascinate me with their brilliance, and these gentlemen are the ones who made me want to write too. While I have many favourites, these are a few of the standouts to me.
4. Stephen King’s ‘Pet Sematary’ – let’s all agree that when someone or something dies, they are meant to stay that way. Mr King is well known for his horror stories, and this was a doozy. I couldn’t put the book down. Not only did it give me chills, it brought me to tears many times. The empathy I had for the family and what they endured, the darkness, and the consequences of messing with that darkness – I’m getting teary just thinking about it. It was bad enough as a teen, but now that I’m a parent, some things in this book cut so much deeper.
5. Stephen King’s ‘Thinner’ – I have a thing about curse stories and this tale about a gypsy curse and revenge was brilliant. Again, this urged the reader not to mess with things they don’t understand, especially all things paranormal and magical. The main character tried so hard to right his wrongs, but some things cannot be atoned. The best part about this story was the twist at the end. After everything the main character endured, and what he did to elude his fate, I never saw this coming – and I’m saying that as a Stephen King fan who ought to know better.
6. Dean Koontz’s ‘Twilight Eyes’ – I loved the carney vibe and the main character’s ability to see demons within their human guise – I was in paranormal heaven. This book had everything – romance, horror, paranormal, deep emotional pain, and the promise that whatever life throws at you, you just keep fighting. The carnival backdrop fascinated me. While I’ve never wanted to run away and join a carnival (or the circus), the people and their deep sense of private community still hold my attention today. I think I was in my mid-teens when I read this, and for a long time, I took to staring at people intensely, just in case I could see the ‘demons’ beneath the surface. LOL
7. Dean Koontz’s ‘Odd Thomas’. As you know, I’ve been reading this series, but I did read the first book some years ago. Odd is another character whom I found fabulous and sad at the same time. It’s very hard to decide at times whether one’s paranormal ability really is a gift or a curse, and reading Odd’s take on life calls to me. I don’t know why I find this character so endearing. He emits from the page such gentleness, such deep caring for the people he loves, yet he carries such a heavy weight on his young shoulders. And despite this calm and passive demeanour, I know he’s capable of such dark things. A part of me doesn’t want to read the last in the series because I’m not sure I’m ready for Odd to end.
8. Wilbur Smith’s ‘River God’ – set in Ancient Egypt at the time of the Pharaohs. Its magic, intrigue, love, murder, and the overshadowing of politics had me on the edge of my seat. Politics isn’t my thing, but I did like the strategic way the characters went about getting what they wanted, even if some of them got what they deserved instead. I love how Mr Smith brought Ancient Egypt to life with all its customs, superstitions, and beliefs, and this is another book I didn’t want to end.
9. J.K. Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter’ series. This author made me believe in magic again. She made me feel the same wonder as an adult in Harry Potter that I found as a child reading #1’s book. I also take hope in the fact that she received several rejections (as did Stephen King) before she was published. Again, Harry Potter is about magic, courage, conviction, and they don’t need help from the adults, thank you very much. (Although having that parental love made a huge difference in the lives of the characters and the decisions they made.) I would love to have read these books as a teen, but Harry Potter certainly spoke to my inner child. I’m not sure whether I wish I’d written this series, but the thought of captivating so many readers and having them love the characters so much would certainly be an amazing feat.
10. Gordon Korman’s ‘I Want to Go Home’. I read this as a teen and I still read it now whenever I need a good laugh. The main characters, Rudy Miller (who’s an ace at everything he does whether it’s sport, dancing, or a game of chess) and Mike Webster (clever, shy, and not sporty in the slightest) are polar opposites. Yet their friendship and mutual hatred of summer camp are the catalysts to some hilarious moments. Korman’s characterisations are amazing, but in my teens, all I cared about was escaping summer camp with those boys. And as an adult, it inspires me to find the humour in tough situations.
You’ll have noticed I didn’t put a romance book in there. It isn’t because I don’t have a favourite or that I’m not influenced by them. I am. But when I was growing up, there was no such thing as a paranormal romance. Whether there wasn’t an audience for it then, or we were waiting for break out authors to be published in the genre and set a trend that’s just as popular today, I’m not sure. The truth is I always planned to write darker stories and embrace the paranormal world, but my characters had other ideas and I came to realise that romance had a bigger influence on my writing that I’d previously considered. There are romantic elements in every book I’ve mentioned above, and they matter in each story, and that’s what I really fell in love with, and why romance in writing keeps finding its way to me. :)
The big question is – what books influence you? I’d love to know. :)
Jingle Stars (Shamans and Shifters Space Opera Book 4) by Jenny Schwartz
When a starship decides to play Santa Claus…
Ahab is a mLa’an artificial intelligence embedded in the starship, Orion.
The campaign for AIs to be recognized as full citizens of Galaxy Proper is within reach of its extraordinary goal. The only thing that could stop it now is if an AI did something foolish…like take a space station hostage to save eight orphaned children.
And this is the letter to Santa that starts it all:
I don’t know if your reindeers work in space. But if you have room in your sleigh after you finish delivering presents to the lucky kids with parents and homes, can you come and get me and my friends? Please?
We’ve been good. Well, we haven’t been really bad. We’re on Station Elphame, in the junkyard, and Zoe is sick. She’s bad sick. I think she’d be better on a planet. We don’t need presents. We just need a way out of here. Ollie tried to sneak onto a trampship…he died.
Please, Santa, I don’t want any more of my friends to die.
Ahab’s goals are simple – to learn and grow in the world around him. As an artificial intelligence he, and others like him, can integrate on a technological level that surpasses all the known species of Galaxy Proper. But their artificial state means they’re not yet recognised as equals. While politics is a great concern to his fellow mLa’ans, Ahab is more concerned about nurturing his ability to identify with humans – another race yet to gain recognition in Galaxy Proper. The humans that live in the starship he navigates have claimed him as one of their own. When he intercepts a desperate message from a human child in need, politics, Galaxy Proper, and his position in mLa’an society are the last things on Ahab’s mind because nothing is more important than family.
What a wonderful tale to read over Christmas. Ms Schwartz’s story really tugs at the heart strings. To read what’s happening to the children, and the lengths they go to just to survive on the space station rallied such a mix of emotions. To a child, to believe that someone as magical and powerful as Santa could save them, and then discover one of Santa’s helpers controls a starship instead of a sleigh with technology at the helm rather than ‘eight tiny reindeer’ was such a clever twist. I was amazed at what those kids went through, but at the end – well, that’s when the tears, and the Christmas miracle, really came together. :)
Baron (Book 3 in the Dragons of Riddick series) by Mel Teshco
The dragons will search the universe for their one true mate...
Piper Meadows hates her strange ability that allows her to sense supernatural beings; it’s made her an oddity and an outcast in her small town. It’s at a party she doesn’t want to attend that her ability is suddenly triggered, making her aware of someone not human. A pity that someone is also the best-looking male she’s ever seen. Not that it matters, a man like Baron wouldn’t look her way twice … would he?
As captain of a mighty dragon army, Baron Alsharma has been exposed to a whole world of violence. Then he sets eyes on the gentle and remarkable Piper, and there is no way in hell he’ll give her up. He doesn’t care that she’s not a rare breeder. If he has to forcibly make off with her to convince her they’re perfect together, he will, even while having to keep one step ahead of the Tantonics, his sworn alien enemy. Except the Paranormal Detection Agency is also on his tail and will do anything to capture a shape shifting dragon, even if it means hurting Piper to get to him.
Piper Meadows is keeping secrets. Some people have noticed she’s different, but they don’t know her true capabilities, and apparently, neither does Piper. But that’s about to change now that a dragon shifter has her in his sights, and he sees more in the gentle loveliness that is Piper than all the stupid men on her home planet.
Baron Alsharma is duty bound to survive and meet with his fellow dragon shifters a year from now. The last thing he planned was becoming side tracked by a human woman, especially one he’s certain isn’t capable of breeding with him and ensuring the survival of his species. That’s his duty too. A pity his heart and mind have other ideas because now that he’s found Piper, he doesn’t want to give her up. His alien enemies and their newfound adversaries on Earth might think they can keep them apart, but Baron and Piper have other ideas. A pity then, that no one told them the Paranormal Detection Agency has a new weapon, one that can change everything.
Ms Teshco’s third book is every bit as entertaining as the previous ones. There are parts of the theme the reader comes to expect, but Baron’s story has a satisfying twist and introduces new possibilities to the series. The previous stories have been about the male dragon shifters, but the next in the series is about Princess Dahlia, and I’m looking forward to how a female dragon shifter attempts to blend into the human world. Something tells me she’s going to be a very strong character. :)
Maid for the Rock Star (Romance Island Resort Series Book 1) by Demelza Carlton
A maid at the exclusive Romance Island Resort, Audra knows how to handle rock stars, billionaires, and celebrities. She keeps their secrets, cleans up their mess and makes sure their holiday is a memorable one. There's just one rule: no relationships with guests. And Audra never breaks the rules.
Jay Felix is rock royalty and he knows it. When one of his bandmates threatens to break up the band, he goes into hiding at the Romance Island Resort. Looking for a distraction, he sets his sights on the unattainable Audra. But what's a rock star to do when the girl he wants is the one woman he can't have?
Welcome to paradise, where the romance is as hot as the weather and the tides aren't all that's surging beneath the surface.
Jay Felix’s massive ego has served him well in the rock star world. He’s at the centre of everyone’s attention, especially his own, always. What he didn’t expect was for a maid to see through his blustery façade and see the real person he fights to hide. Surely, if he makes her another of his many forgettable conquests all will be right in his world. After all, who doesn’t want to bed a rock star?
Audra is a hard-working woman who’s determined to build a better life for herself. A job at a beautiful island resort is a stepping stone to her dream career in meteorology. Education isn’t cheap, and when you come from a poor, struggling family, any job is precious. Which is why she has no intention of succumbing to her teenage crush’s ‘very’ tempting offer. She has goals and dreams of her own and she’s not shifting track for anyone or anything – is she?
There’s many believable aspects to this story. Another life time ago I worked as a maid on an island resort in Far North Queensland. Cleaning is hard work, but working on a beautiful tropical island brings with it an appealing visual aspect. There are strict rules about fraternising with guests, long working hours, a constant changeover of staff, and a clash of personalities like the ones described in Ms Carlton’s book. Now, what happens on island resorts, stays on island resorts, but let’s just say she captured the life perfectly.
From last month’s blog you might remember I planned on reading another of Ms Carlton’s books – ‘Blow’. I put it in a safe place (or so I thought) so it wouldn’t get packed with our other books. I’m sure it will turn up at the new house, (in a box of books no one claims to have packed) and I’ll read it then.
Along with my partner in crime, Emily, our BIAW coordinator, I’ll be undertaking a new role within the RWA structure this year as co-host for our Q&A sessions. This means we approach the many wonderful authors, publishers, editors, book cover designers, agents, and other aspects of the writing industry and have them guest on our eLoop to chat about themselves and their experiences. Our aspiring writers then can ask questions and have the experts share their knowledge.
I’m excited about the possibilities considering the quality of the guests we’ve been blessed with previously thanks to our previous Q&A coordinator – Julie-Anne. If you listen carefully, you can hear my inner fangirl is already squee-ing. LOL
Once I’m settled in my new office, along with my personal editing and writing to my goals, I hope to expand the copy-editing venture. This means I get to read some awesome stories and help the writers and authors polish their manuscripts – who wouldn’t love that?
My writing group started back today. It was lovely to see everyone and to share our writing exercises. I’ve rewritten the last two chapters of a novella and that’s currently being beta read. Novel next, and then the first of the two new stories. I also finished a proofread for a debut author who will soon be releasing her book baby into the world. Stay tuned for a review and interview with this lovely lady. :)
Meanwhile, I’m wondering whether I should invest in a Dictaphone so I can work on my stories as I pack, clean, and unpack over the next few weeks. Preferably one that automatically edits the ‘extra’ swear words that may slip out in the process. Oh dear!
Until next time, may beautiful words soothe your soul. :)